The Week in Games: March 23, 2007

News from the virtual world:

— ART OF "WAR": That roar you heard across the PlayStation nation last week was the sound of Kratos, the crankiest guy in video games, returning to Earth in Sony's "God of War II."

It's the last big release for the venerable PlayStation 2, and it will almost certainly be one of 2007's biggest sellers.

Sony shipped more than 1 million copies of the game to stores and celebrated with a party, complete with horse-drawn chariot, at its Metreon center in San Francisco.

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During the event, creative director Cory Barlog dropped a few hints about the inevitable "God of War III" on the PlayStation 3 ... although he quickly backtracked, since the game hasn't been officially announced.

But then Sony issued a press release saying fans may be seeing "God of War" in full high definition, which would certainly seem to indicate a PS3 chapter.

Sony did officially announce a PlayStation Portable version, which Barlog described as a completely original adventure that will be "a further fleshing-out" of Kratos' story.

It's being developed by Ready at Dawn, the studio behind the superb "Daxter" PSP game, and it's scheduled for later this year.

— INTO THE FOLD: Despite all the criticism the PlayStation 3 has received, everyone acknowledges it a powerful piece of hardware. Scientists at Stanford University want to harness that power while you're not using it to play "Virtua Fighter."

The researchers are studying the folding and misfolding of proteins, processes that may lead to diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and many kinds of cancer. It requires a lot of computing power to simulate the processes, so the Folding@home program has set up a global network of computers to handle the calculations.

By the end of this month, Internet-connected PS3 owners will be able to donate time on their machines to the Folding@home project. It's the first "distributed computing" project to take advantage of the PS3's zippy Cell processor, and Sony promises it won't be the last.

— COUNTER-STRIKE: Crusading Miami attorney Jack Thompson has been after "Grand Theft Auto" publisher Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) for years now, with the battle expected to resume this year with "Manhunt 2" and "GTA IV." This time, however, Take-Two is drawing first blood.

According to the Game Politics Web site, the company petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida "to enjoin [Thompson] from bringing suit on behalf of the State of Florida to enjoin the sale of 'GTA IV' or 'Manhunt 2' as a nuisance."

Thompson brought a similar (and ultimately unsuccessful) suit last year against Take-Two's "Bully," and he was unfazed by the company's pre-emptive strike.

"I have been praying, literally, that Take-Two and its lawyers would do something so stupid, so arrogant, so dumb, even dumber than what they have to date done, that such a misstep would enable me to destroy Take-Two," the lawyer said.

Maybe Kratos isn't the crankiest guy in video games.

— GAMING GEEZERS: We video gamers may be cute, but we sure grow up fast. A survey conducted by Nielsen/NetRatings found that 71 percent of game console owners are married, and 66 percent have at least one child.

And where do gamers — clearly a responsible, family-focused lot — live?

According to a separate study by the consumer research firm Scarborough Research, Salt Lake City has the highest percentage of households with video-game systems, at 32 percent.

Close behind are Lexington, Ky., Flint, Mich., and Toledo, Ohio.

Fort Myers and Miami, Fla., have the lowest percentages; apparently all those retirees would rather play bingo than "God of War II."

— NEW IN STORES: PlayStation 3 owners get their first great role-playing game, Bethesda Softworks' "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion." ...

Wii-loving families get three new titles, Majesco's "Cooking Mama: Cook Off" and Konami's "Kororinpa: Marble Mania" and "Wing Island." ...

Sega has a busy week, releasing "Virtua Tennis 3" for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PlayStation Portable; "Armored Core 4" for the 360 and PS3; and "Shining Force EXA" for the PlayStation 2. ...

Nintendo has "Custom Robo Arena" for the Nintendo DS. ...

Ubisoft's "TMNT" (as in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") movie tie-in is available on just about every platform. ...

And the genre-bender of the week is D3's puzzle/role-playing epic "Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords," for the DS and PSP.